Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Search

I spent eight hours on the 19th floor of a fancy Chicago hotel yesterday, interviewing possible colleagues--creative writers--in the company of three of my current colleagues. Dear god, what a long day, and an unpleasant one at many points. I have lots of tired, mean comments I could make about doing academic job interviews, but I'm really trying to recover from yesterday, so my fingers will not touch those keys.

Instead: I brought two old copies of Threads with me to read on the train. On the way downtown, I enjoyed re-reading articles that I hadn't paid close attention to when they first arrived in my mailbox. But on the way home, at 8 p.m. on a very, very cold Chicago night, that copy of Threads was the thing that kept me awake and kept me from crying/screaming/falling asleep, especially while some weird guy sat across from me, staring and smiling at me *the whole way home*. I did not think I could be more fried than I was, but I paid close attention to the most technical details in an article about drafting a pants pattern from scratch. Learning how to switch gears *completely* is really hard for me, but last night, I felt like I did it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Molasses in Late December

Something's up with my MS Vista "enabled" computer, and for the past week I haven't been able to post photos to this blog, open attachments on email, or get on Blackboard (for work). What *does* work is as slow as the proverbial wintertime jar of molasses. So....because I can't stand a lot of frustration right now, I won't even try to post pictures (or do any of those other everyday tasks) until I can get this situation straightened out. (Man, do I hate Vista.....)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Two stores + two parking lots=one handmade hat and scarf

This morning, after I finally got all of the out-of-town holiday packages wrapped (but not mailed, mind you---I don't know when I'll get to that), and I was out the door on my way to work, I remembered that Astrid has a birthday party to go to tomorrow. I could have cried: the last thing I wanted to do after work today was shop. On the train coming home, I decided that I would make Astrid's friend a winter hat and scarf out of polarfleece and vintage buttons. I told my husband that making these items would take me less time than driving to any store--assuming I could even find a parking space. It's Friday evening, and Christmas is Tuesday, and the news says everyone in the U.S. is waiting until the last minute to do their Christmas shopping. As it turned out, I made a major construction error when I was sewing the hat, and I had to redo a big part of it, so the project ended up being roughly equivalent to going to two different stores (in my shopping-aversive mind, that is.) Embellishing the hat and scarf were way more fun than *any* step in the moneyandtime-for-stuff exchange would have been.

I don't know how parents of my kids' friends look at handmade gifts. Last year I made another of Astrid's friends a pair of slippers for her birthday, and her mother's response seemed somewhat confused--polite, underwhelmed, and a little brittle. Are plastic toys and pink princess accessories a birthright for young girls? Ack.

I fear the hat I just made is a bit small (young girls have such big heads, don't they?), but it's pretty "stylish." (When it comes to clothes, this is Astrid's all-purpose descriptor--though her definition of stylish can be quite loose at times. Elliot reminds me that her favorite recent accessory has been an unraveling shiny pink gorra [knit cap] sized for a newborn....she wears it when she's acting out scenes from her private Olympic Games and private Cinderella, not realizing that she looks like to put it nicely? Well, she doesn't look like any of the Olympic Cinderellas I know about. That's fine with me.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Naturalist Quilt

My husband didn't actually use the word "overkill," but his look said it all. Not surprisingly, I'm not even sure that I like how this "quilt" came out. I did the whole thing over a period of three days--this included finding images, ironing (*lots* of ironing), quilting, binding, and...hmm...adding stuff when I wasn't satisfied with how my "draft" was looking. (I went through some of my vintage clothes to find the 1940s stocking and handkerchief; I "distressed" [ha ha] the handkerchief with some tea and lipstick.)

On its own, it's certainly not overkill, but my whole reason for making the thing was so that I could show my students that I was willing to do the kind of work that I was asking them to do. I do hope that some of them got as lost in their work as I did in mine, but given just how "generous" my enthusiasms are, I have to keep in mind the likelihood that they didn't.

A lot of the text comes from academic Home Economics articles from the 1920s through the 1940s, and from the Delineator magazine (which Theodore Dreiser edited in the 1910s--I think he was long gone by the time this material was published.) The Delineator ran a section on how credit and installment buying were changing American consumption patterns, with articles that painted (relatively) easy access to credit as either the savior or the potential downfall of the U.S. public. Alongside the didactic materials on home management and budgeting, I used lots and lots of images from pulp novels and magazines, along with some government notices about food and cloth rationing, and blown-up, fragmented snapshots of American women (from the "vernacular photography" site Square America). The quilt is bound with a comic strip print--it's what I had around, but I liked it because it has the words "I'll get you next time!," which seems to fit the hell-in-a-handbasket spirit of American naturalism.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Are *you* ready for the Creed?

I'm working on an artquilt for the American Literary Naturalism course I'm teaching this semester. The students are required to produce a creative project (visual, literary, dramatic, musical, etc....), and I hinted to them that I hoped to do the same (you know, talking the talk/walking the walk....we have no hands-on arts courses where I do most of my teaching, so I try to create opportunities for students to work with their hands....).

In the process of gathering images for my quilt, I came across a very cool website for an exhibit called What Was Home Economics? From Domesticity to Modernity. The whole site is interesting, but I was strangely attracted to "The Home Bureau Creed" (in the "Educational Techniques" area of the exhibit. It's visually beautiful, and feels surprisingly contemporary (to me, anyway).

My favorite part of the creed is where it urges people "to lose self in generous enthusiasms." There are lots of ways to interpret this idea, but I think it's a nice way to think about the relationship building that happens when people share/teach other people handwork and useful arts. I confess that lately I've been getting tired of "project-ing" (though there are lots of sensible reasons why....); at the same time, this description of what I spend so much time doing and thinking about makes me feel pretty sunny, even on a gloomy gray Chicago day.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Christmas is getting closer, and I'm a bit nervous about being able to finish holiday presents. Part of the problem is that the gift I opted to mass-produce (nope, I can't name it yet) turned out to be more difficult than I guessed it would be. The other problem, I am chagrined to admit, is that I keep switching between gift-making and other, more interesting projects: two dresses for Astrid (they're finished--pictures soon), a bunch of long-sleeved winter shirts for Astrid (two are almost done, while the other four are cut out), and some mittens (I cut out four pairs' worth out of fleece scraps, and then screwed up the palms and thumbs for two pairs, so I had to toss them).

I haven't written a holiday letter yet, or taken a picture of the kids to send with our cards. Perhaps shingles has something to do with how behind and overwhelmed I feel....I really thought that if I did all my Christmas stuff at home, and stayed away from stores, that I'd feel in control. Can't say it's worked out that way, at least not yet.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Undercover Storyteller

A few nights ago, after Terry put Astrid to bed, I saw him puzzling over a bunch of letters Astrid had written in her notebook. Though I hadn't thought much about it at the time, Terry later pointed out that she'd really resisted his attempts to get her to put down the pencil--she said she was writing a story, and that she couldn't finish it in the morning. On its own, this wasn't unusual, as she's the kind of kid who will resist pretty much any suggestion, no matter how appealing, if she thinks she can assert her personhood by doing so. (There's a *lot* of personhood assertion going on at our house.)

I asked Terry what he was seeing in her writing, and he called me over. "Read it," he said. I stared at it for a while, not seeing much, and then asked *him* to read it. I felt kinda dumb when he sounded it out for me (remember, he and I are both writing teachers, and I regularly teach my Composition Theory students about "emergent literacy," or the beginnings of reading and writing in young children). He pronounced each letter as Astrid was likely to have been hearing it in her mind (for example, she used a "y" for the sound made by "w," because the English name for "y" starts with a "w" sound.)

Astrid is *just* learning how to read; she can sound out a lot of short words, and she's been looking at books since she was a baby. When she writes, she either does it without spaces (as in this example), or puts each word on its own line. For me, finally figuring out that she had written "Once upon a time" was cool, cool, cool. I don't have a great memory for these milestones--I'm embarrassed to say that I have no baby books or scrapbooks for either Elliot or Astrid--but I don't remember Elliot learning to write at the very same time as he was learning to read. (He did start decoding words a few months before Astrid.)

Anyway, talk about asserting personhood....

Friday, November 30, 2007

Enforced Idleness. I Hate Enforced Idleness.

Everything grinds to a halt.....and that's (gulp) OK. (No, I don't believe it, but I'm saying it.)

At Astrid's dance class last night, I realized that my neck and shoulder were burning and tingling. Shingles. Again. It's probably not a bad case, but why?? Why??

Enough whining. (Well, OK, I'm not actually done: around 2 a.m. last night, Astrid started throwing up, and 18 hours later, she's still at it. There's not much rest for the shingly, or for her husband, and there's certainly none for Astrid. Elliot's feeling good, though!)

Around 8 p.m. last night, when I was stomping around the kitchen, grouching at the varicella zoster virus, I remembered that I needed to make cookies for the parish Women's Club bake sale. I'm not a member of the Women's Club, but I was oddly excited when someone called last week and asked if I would bake three to four dozen cookies and deliver them to the school gym this Friday evening. I contentedly agreed--I felt like I was sort of, kind of finding my way into a community that's a quiet but noticeable presence in our neighborhood.

Fast forward to Thursday night.....yes, I made the cookies.....peppermint and chocolate spirals.....pretty tasty. Tonight, in a slightly loopy state (codeine), I walked the tray of cookies over to the school gym and handed them off to the harried-looking woman (my age, my build....what was I expecting?) at the door.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Doin' what I gotta do

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Art Mom on the Job

Tomorrow we have a meeting of our crafters' group at school--I'm faculty advisor, and the group is now "official," which means that we might get some funding. I decided not to wait for money, and went to the art supply store so that I could bring some printmaking supplies to use with whoever shows up. (And I'm not above wandering the halls and dragging unsuspecting students and colleagues into our room!) For the past couple of meetings, I've been teaching people to knit, which I'm happy to do, even though I find it a bit boring (I haven't enjoyed knitting since the kids were born--too many opportunities to get distracted and lose count of stitches). This time, though, I want to do something more adventurous. I'm bringing the supplies the kids and I have been using at home (brayers, ink, tiles for spreading the ink), plus the stuff I just bought (including some foam sheets--I haven't tried these before--I would have just recycled foam plates from the supermarket, but because I don't buy raw meat [it's icky], I never have any.

So I hope people will come and play with us for an hour over lunchtime.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The biggest shopping day of the year

I've been listening to the traffic reports on our NPR station today, the day after Thanksgiving; instead of giving expressway times (something I barely pay attention to, even when I'm driving, because I don't take the highway to work....ha ha is good), the announcer has been reporting on how many parking spaces are available at the major shopping centers. My office is smack dab in between two shopping destinations--Woodfield Mall and IKEA in Schaumburg--so I was feeling very, very thankful that I didn't have to go to work today. (In case you are curious, at 4 p.m. today, the Woodfield lots were 95% full, while IKEA was over 50% full--I bet shoppers are sneaking their gas-guzzling SUVs into the lot right outside my office....). There are many stores in my area that I won't go to between about November 15 and January 3, at least not unless it's a weekday morning. Over the past ten years, some of my most miserable driving/shopping experiences have been in the parking lot of Whole Foods on *any* day in that six-week spread, so that's one place I just plain avoid.

The four of us stayed home, and, in an attempt to fend off another day of nonstop TV watching, I got Elliot and Astrid going on an art project by about 9:30 today. Astrid was a fairly easy sell (though she didn't last long), while Elliot was, well, in a mopey tweeny space. As is often the case, though, Elliot came around and worked for a long time. Astrid, to my happy astonishment, didn't demand that we all stop working when she was bored. Instead, she asked me to get out her tea set, and she had a tea party with her baby dolls (Daisy, Lucy, and the two Shellyenias). Then, as if she wanted me to faint on the floor, she quietly put all of her china tea set back into the box when she was done and put it back onto its shelf in the games cabinet. I *knew* that someday she'd show the effects of her two years in a Montessori classroom! (Just kidding--she gets a ton out of Montessori.)

During our morning work time, we focused on printmaking. Astrid produces the images she wants to print much more quickly than I can carve them; fortunately, Elliot has become more independent (we have new carving tools that take less force, and, at my insistence, he wears big safety goggles), so most of the help I give him is verbal rather than hands-on. I also bought an additional brayer so that we aren't standing around waiting for someone to finish, or, worse, arguing and fussing as the process of printing everyone's images takes longer and longer.

A few days ago, Astrid drew a wonderful rubber block of a sculpture display in "a *real* museum--not a children's museum." I can't recall if she's been to the Art Institute with her class--I haven't taken her since she was in a stroller--so I was interested to find out what she saw as the difference between "real" and "children's" museums. What stands out for her is that, in a real museum, you can't run around; it's a place for using your eyes and ears, she says, rather than your hands. I asked her if one could use one's nose in a museum, and she said yes--an answer that warmed my heart, as I am an art smeller from way back. (This is true--I am regularly approached by security guards who see me sniffing the paintings and sculpture.)

Elliot's prints focused today on Pokemon characters. Some of them came out very well, but the one he tried to do on a linoleum block really frustrated him--I think it was well carved, but he just couldn't get it to print the way he wanted it to. We spent time talking about which kinds of Pokemon figures would make good models for block printed images; he gravitates toward the Pokemon cards with airbrushed, very 3-D looking creatures, but I told him I thought he might be very dissatisfied with how he could render them in a print. He was very reasonable about the issue--much more than he might have been a year ago. He agreed with me that a couple of his favorites might be too challenging; the one he chose was also potentially difficult, but he showed me how he would simplify the image so that he could get the idea of it across without worrying too much about the details.

I was finally able to finish carving, test, and then partially recarve the linoleum block I've been working on for Christmas cards. The figures in the image are partly based on illustrations from 1930s arithmetic textbooks. I took a picture of the block before I carved it, because my husband thought it was unlikely that I'd be able to get all the detail into the carved version (I'm a pretty inexperienced printmaker), and I wanted to be able to save something from my work, in case it was a disaster. Happily, it came out pretty much as I had hoped it would. My husband was impressed, which always makes me happy.

After printmaking, the children and I took a fussy little walk around the block (Elliot wanted to be napping, or, in any case, not walking). It was cold and exhilarating, and even Elliot felt pretty cheerful when we returned. Astrid wanted to make a sock puppet (I ended up doing 90% of it, because she was nervous about using a sewing needle). Then, feeling like I'd done my best to keep the TV off, I let them go downstairs to watch Pokemon episodes on YouTube. Then I got to sew a bit....I finished two pairs of khaki pants for Elliot and two for Astrid, and then moved onto Christmas presents....I'll show a picture, but I'm not saying yet what they are.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My bias (tape)

It's Thanksgiving, and I'm pretty sure the TV has been on all day---not football, but the "Arthur" marathon on PBS. I know it could be so much worse. "Arthur" really is one of my favorite shows--I'd probably watch it even if I didn't have kids--but I have to say that I feel guilty working in the kitchen and letting the kids watch six straight hours of TV. (Terry's been in the basement for much of the day, trying to do computer coding for his "Macbeth: The Game"--the class he's teaching this semester).

But this is life. It occurs to me right now that the TV-intensive Thanksgiving is a natural consequence of not having relatives or friends over for the holiday. In past years, my mom or my brother-in-law Tim have traveled (from Olympia WA or Milwaukee) to be with us; then we've gotten to experience the "It Takes a Village to Raise A Child" thing that we usually just dream about. There are advantages, I suppose, to having absolutely no family in the area--we have, for instance, developed close relationships with some of our neighbors--but on days like today, it would be nice to have an "automatic" sort of holiday date.

So the blessing associated with the nuclear Thanksgiving (the one with just the four of us and the TV on all day) is that, in between making pumpkin pie and apple cake, I got to make yards and yards of bias tape for the Christmas presents I'm putting together. I probably wouldn't have done that if we'd had family here. And I love making bias tape! It's always touch and go: I look at the instructions, and I think I understand what I need to do, but once I have the cloth cut out, I usually have to rip the stitches out a couple of times and reassemble the package. Cutting the sewn tube into the long, long strip is a challenge, too, as I have trouble accurately measuring the width. But I did it....I made probably 3 yards of light blue, and about 10 yards of bright red tape. It looks good, especially now that it's neatly wound around little bits of cardboard.

I remember reading that, back when most women sewed all their own clothes, there were many, many companies that *just made bias tape* for home sewers. The workers in these factories frequently went on strike, and when they did, there was major economic disruption. It's hard to believe that this could be true, but when I see how many bias tape ads there are in turn of the century (19th to 20th, that is) magazines, I realize that it makes sense.

I do use factory made (Wright's--the only brand now) bias tape for a lot of things, but when I know it's going to show and needs to be strong, I make my own.

Well, our turkey roast is ready to come out of the oven. I'm hungry.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Blog Tinkerer

Sounds like the title of a meaty novel with a reading group discussion guide at the end, huh? I spent the evening trying to figure out how to do things with Blogger--a frustrating couple of hours, but I eventually did make the basic changes I wanted to make. I think this is what I do instead of exercising.

I've been looking at my sister-in-law's work at Whole Cloth Designs--well, not just her art/craft, but the blog itself--both are beautiful. I get excited reading about what she's making, and I feel so sistery when I read how she weaves her parenting and art together. Making art--that is, making the time and mental space to make *anything*--has gotten so much easier for me since Elliot and Astrid have gotten bigger. Carrie's entries take me back to the days when it was....well....not easy. I couldn't think in terms of projects, the way I do now. I am astonished at what Carrie manages to do.

At work today a colleague with two young daughters asked me what I thought about starting a support or discussion group for faculty with children. She was saying how she feels that her life as a parent has to be submerged when she's at work. I know what that felt/feels like. I have felt the same way about the art I make--for the longest time, I didn't tell people how much I thought about making art, how it's often much realer to me than the scholarly work I try to do (but have trouble doing now that I'm a parent). I'm a good deal more "out" about both parts of my identity....especially now that I am crafting a research agenda that focuses on craft, sewing, gender, and motherhood. The parenting work/paid work balance doesn't seem to have gotten easier (we really do need a group for parents at my job), but I've made progress in integrating my worries, dreams, and coping mechanisms into verbal and tactile channels.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Here are Elliot and Astrid's Halloween costumes (actually, the expressions on their faces are probably cooler than the costumes themselves....they both showed so much attitude this year). Astrid was Little Red Riding Hood, the closest she could get to being a princess (I've let her know that I don't sew princess dresses....I used to tell her that my machine wouldn't work on pink cloth, but she doesn't buy that anymore). Elliot was an alien. His costume was by far the most elaborate get-up I've attempted. We were both pleased with how it came out, but I was certainly ready to be done with it a couple of hours before the costume was done with me. I used about ten feet of vinyl tubing in his tunic and on his hat (made of a stainless steel mixing bowl, with a battery powered LED light on top). When he wore the costume at school, he also had black gloves with tiny balloons in the finger tips--all slightly different in size and shape--so that his hands looked like black ginger roots....very creepy.

I wore a black Betty Boop wig and red lipstick on Halloween, but you don't get to see that. I do have some pictures of me looking very severe in the wig; I may incorporate them into a collage or some other project. If I do and I like how it comes out, I'll post it.

Friday night

I managed to get dinner on early last night--Friday night--so we had time after we ate to do some art together. I'd been thinking about printmaking for a while, and had some unused rubber blocks in one of my drawers. Astrid drew her designs on the blocks in marker (the Pterodactyl is her design), and I carved them out; Elliot got to do his own carving (he did the flower). He was pleased about being able to wield the knives.

Astrid's hair is way shorter than it used to be, but it kept dipping dangerously close to the ink--not a catastrophe, of course, but Terry had just given her a bath the day before. It was one of those nights where I had enough energy to do some art or to give her a bath, but not both. She was confused about why her drawings disappeared when I carved into them, and about why a drawing couldn't be used the way it was, without carving it at all, but once she made her first print, she seemed to understand the concept a lot better.

While she was waiting for her turn to print (we have only one rubber brayer), Astrid made a great picture of a one chicken band. After she'd made several instruments (Terry's and my favorite is the drum kit), Elliot joined her and added some more instruments and a comb for the chicken's head.

After Astrid went to bed, Elliot and I spent another happy hour or so making potato prints and listening to a mix tape I made for Terry when we were first dating (in 1989, maybe?). I explained the courting ritual of the mix tape (which I'm guessing has been pre-empted by MP3 playlists, but I don't know for sure....I should ask my students, but I'm a bit embarrassed to).

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I finished a collage last night. It's 18 x 24, and I've been working on it for about a month (a very short time, according to my mom, but an eternity for my ADHD aesthetic sensibility). The photos aren't great, of course, because the camera's flash obliterated some of the details, but here's the gist of the picture: the main figures are from sewing pattern covers from the 1920s and 1930s. Their dresses are composed of tiny bits of magazine and book covers from the period--particularly early Soviet children's books and U.S. pop culture magazines like Photoplay, College Humor, and Detective Story (I think that's the name). There's a big profile of a woman in a cloche hat (done with acrylic paint and light modeling paste) and a black and white collar (a mosaic of words and images from "race record" advertisements). Some cool things that don't show up in these pictures: the belt of one figure's dress is made up of the faces of Sacco and Vanzetti, while the skirt of another figure's dress is made up of photos of cafeteria workers from Milwaukee in the 1930s. It will take me a while to decide whether I'm happy with the finished product; right now I'm mostly aware of how much work it took. (And of how much fun I had planning it and carrying it out, of course.)

I'm already starting to think about collages to come--first, though, I have to get Elliot's ambitious space alien costume finished for Halloween.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Can a social avoidance phobia apply to blogs?

Sometimes when I'm depressed (and I know I'm not alone here) I get so that I don't want to answer the phone or talk to neighbors, even though I know the human contact will perk me up a bit.

My last blog entry was at the beginning of May. Now, I haven't been depressed (well, not very), but a series of unfortunate technological events in May and June threw me so off my blogging routine that I've had a devil of a time getting back to it....even though I know how much I enjoy this kind of writing.

I won't go into all my little setbacks, but here were the clinchers: my laptop died, just as I was starting to teach my summer session online class. The new laptop (yes, I'm using it now) has MS Vista, which I still find infuriatingly slow---but over the summer, when we had just changed to what was supposed to be a much faster DSL connection, it took me *forever* to do anything. Responding to my students' work each week took so long that I had absolutely no desire to blog. The speed of our connection has improved, but I haven't been willing to set myself up for the frustration of testing whether I can upload pictures to the blog. Soon, soon.

Because it's been so hard to get photos onto the Kodak site, I haven't bothered to take pictures of my work since May, or of the kids since July (when we took a real vacation to Michigan City. Ahhh. It was great). And my gunshyness is a shame, because I've done so much good work in the past few months: another major collage, even more ambitious than the one of Astrid, a crib-sized quilt that's going to go to my brother for his 35th birthday (eeek.....hearing how old he is makes me feel *really* old), lots of peasant blouses for Astrid and me. And both Elliot and Astrid have done lovely work, too--cool t-shirts, collages, sock puppets.

Well, I've stuck my toe back into the water.

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Jim Dine Experience

When I was in college, my friend Lisa (an art history major) told my friend Debbie and me about the painter Jim Dine, a guy who got so into the act of artistic creation that he was driven to drink the paint he was using. (Incidentally, I have no idea how accurate this story was--I just know that we thought it was hysterical and wanted Lisa to tell it over and over again.)

This weekend, Elliot and Astrid and I had our own version of The Jim Dine experience. After hearing a lecture by the sociologist Barbara Katz Rothman--whose beautiful grey hair was french-braided and streaked purple down the middle of the braid--I got it into my head (almost literally) that I needed some obviously non-natural color in my own quickly greying mop. All in all, I think I spent two hours (over two trips) at Sally Beauty Supply (an art supply store like no other....), and probably four hours doing the actual bleaching and dyeing. Elliot was characteristically stoic--we did him twice over two nights--hardly any complaints at all. Astrid, of course, was the opposite: head over the edge of the tub, screaming that her neck was being broken. Needless to say, I didn't rinse her hair "until the water r[an] perfectly clear." I vowed that under no circumstances would I ever, ever color her hair again, no matter how much she begged. Under his voice, Elliot said, "You don't really mean that, do you? I know you don''s okay, Mom."

So now all three of us have at least a bit of blue (in my case, blue and violet) hair. We didn't drink the dye, but it sort of feels like we did.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The littlest bits

I'm way, way tired today---it's been an incredibly long week, and I'm getting a cold--but I wanted to post pictures from the work I've done over the past seven days or so. Saturday and Sunday I worked on a collage I've been planning for a long time; it's all Astrid, and I'm very happy with how it came out. Elliot wants one now.

Last night before bed I embellished a nightshirt for my sister's birthday (I don't think she reads this, so I'm not ruining the surprise.)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bamboo update

I can't remember the day for sure (it's been an extremely long and tiring week....), but the bamboo jersey I ordered from Wazoodle finally arrived on Thursday. It's beautiful---but I'm not delighted with how long it took to get here, or with the very vague tracking information I got from Wazoodle (on the same day I got the box, their website still said that my order was "in process").

Now I have to figure out the best way to wash it (it's a ten-yard jersey tube). I thought about cutting it into smaller pieces, but I don't know which patterns I'll ultimately use it for--and I don't want to waste any. I also have a feeling that washing a ten-yard tube could wreck our washing machine....I think Threads had a tip a couple of years ago about good ways to wash major yardage. It'll be fun to look through my old issues (maybe tomorrow morning, when I'm home with Astrid--she has a cold and tummy virus).

Somehow I managed to sew three skirts (and about six quilt blocks) this week. I have no idea how I did this. I am a lunatic. (But the skirts look great!)

I know when to say when---I do!

I finally got to some *way* overdue spring cleaning this afternoon. Back in January, I bought an exercise bike and put it in the dining room; almost a month ago, I bought a sideboard and china cabinet from IKEA, but, of course, I ran out of spring break assembly time before I was finished with the sideboard. In the meantime, my overstuffed backback got emptied onto a corner of the dining room so I could use it as a carry-on when we went to Boston. (Really, it's more like my bingeing backback threw up in the corner....what *wasn't* in there? Some highlights: five tubes of lipgloss and lipstick [neither of which I wear more than a few times a year--I'm a Carmex devotee], two pairs of black socks [one clean, one dirty], a sympathy card I never mailed to a mourning colleague, four different kinds of cough drops, unlabeled CD-ROMS for my office computer, two little tubes of toothpaste [one was probably five years old]....).

By Friday (my birthday), even our dining room table was covered with junk mail, birthday cards, baseball cards, toys, dishes. When I got up this morning, I knew it all had to go.

I spent probably six hours cleaning one room. (About 90 minutes of that involved finishing the IKEA sideboard so that I could load it up with game and photo boxes--I'm so happy with how it came out! All the drawers and cabinet doors are solid and smooth-running.) Here's the big news: I threw away all of my rug-braiding stuff. I haven't worked on it in a long time (I suppose I could go back through my blog archives to figure out when I left off, but why?), and I realized that, in spite of my initial success, it wasn't coming out so well. It looked like a polarfleece canoe--not a bit flat, and, unlike cotton or wool, it couldn't be blocked when it was finished (I didn't think of that when I started it). So I tossed both the rug and the polarfleece strips I'd already cut. I was in total tossing mode; I recycled whatever I could today, but if I had to think for too long about what to do with something, in most cases, I just got rid of it.

I didn't feel great when I tossed the stuff, but when I told my husband, the first thing he said was "You'll definitely get a blog entry out of this!" And I have.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Pieced or strip-pieced....doesn't make a big difference!

We're back from the Popular Culture Association convention in Boston--we had a very good time with our kids and with my sister Lora's two sweeties, Sam and Lilly--and now I'm semi-overwhelmed with all the work I have to do this week. Being Easter Sunday, however, I'm trying to honor the spirit of the day by not doing a ton of work. I also made a point of sewing for a while (and I hope to sew some more tonight). I'm almost through with the fourth block in the crib quilt I'm making. The design I chose alternates 16-patch blocks and pinwheel-shaped blocks; I've started with the 16-patch ones. They seem to be going pretty fast (ask me again next week, and the week after that, and.....). As careful as I've been to make keep my seam allowances identical, though, there are still places where the corners don't line up. This makes me mad. And, given the way I work (as fast as possible, mistakes be damned), it's not like I'm likely to get a lot more precise as I go along. I suppose I can say that these quilts are an honest reflection of my true personality.....

Before we left for Boston, I ordered a *lot* of black bamboo jersey from Wazoodle, and it hasn't arrived yet. I've never ordered from Wazoodle before; I expected them to be as fast as At least this time, they're definitely not. (I was a bit worried that the package had disappeared from our porch, but their website says my order is "in process.") I want to make myself a bunch of cool summer shirts, and possibly some pajama shorts for Elliot. It's not like I am ready to sew any of this stuff, but the space between the impulse purchase and the gratification of holding the cloth in my hands is a bit wide for me. (Actually, this wasn't an impulse purchase, as I've been web-shopping for bamboo jersey for a couple of months--I just didn't plan to buy as much as I ended up buying--but I got a considerably lower price for buying ten yards at once.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Los Payasos de Oak Parque

I can't say that I've ever thought of clowning as a craft in the way that sewing's certainly a "craft" in the sense that it's an art form that takes a lot of work to get right. Bad clowns are depressing and sometimes even terrifying.

I don't know a whole lot about clowning, though Elliot has been studying circus arts for the past three or four years--he's a pretty proficient plate spinner, diabolo tosser, and juggler--and once in a while his teachers have the kids put makeup on and practice clowning. Over the past two weeks, though, Elliot and Astrid and I have been thinking and talking a lot about what it means to be a clown. We started because Elliot asked me to get him the long, thin balloons that clowns and magicians use to make balloon animals; the idea was for him to learn how to make a couple of shapes so that he could do them for Astrid's friends at her upcoming birthday party. While I was on the website to buy the balloons and pump, we started looking at clown makeup and decided to get some. Since everything arrived, we've been making *lots* of balloon animals. They're not at all hard to do! Once I got over my fear of having the balloons pop on me (not many do....they're pretty strong) I was shocked at how easy they are to make.

We're almost out of the first bag of 100 balloons (eeek--they went fast), so I ordered some more last night, along with some white clown makeup---we forgot to get it the first time around. Now the kids want to have a circus during our spring/summer block party. It's not scheduled yet, but I bet we'll need to buy more balloons before it happens.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why do scrap quilts cost so much to make?

I'm suddenly interested in making a pieced scrap quilt--instead of my usual can't-be-bothered strip piecing. I'm reading a book by Roberta Horton about the theory and aesthetics of "real" scrap's got me all excited. I looked forward all day to shopping on line for batting, templates, and a *little* bit of fabric. Yet I just got off, where I spent $50....the fabric wasn't all that expensive--but the templates were $18 (I hope they're worth it) and the batting was $8 (not bad, really---it's the good cotton stuff). I guess I didn't absolutely have to buy five half-yards of fabric. On the other hand, given the kind of week I've had, maybe it's exactly what I needed to do.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cyn, cynical--cyn, cynical--cynical is me....(sing like Dick Van Dyke)

(This is a picture of Astrid peeking into the kitchen. My sewing machine and one of Elliot's old handdrawn maps are behind her. I put this picture in because I feel very childish on, if you dare.)

I'm in the final stages of drafting my Bad Craft Blogs paper for the Popular Culture Conference in Boston--my husband and I are reading our papers on April 4. I've been aiming for nine pages, and I have about six right now--with one more day of spring break in which to finish the draft. I feel pretty confident that I can do it (unless I don't sleep tonight and feel bad in the morning), and I think it's going to be a pretty good paper. But. I'm sick to death of thinking about blogs. I've been looking at other people's blogs much more than I actually want to (I just found out, for instance, that there are 1048 blogs in the Knitting Blog ring), and I'm feeling like I did before I ever started my own blog---that they're good mostly for navel gazing egomaniacs with time on their hands.

And yet....this navel gazing egomaniac with no time on her hands has *really* enjoyed writing a blog, and I feel like a twelve-year-old wallflower when I google Seis Manos and can't find it, or when I go to Blogflux (where I tried to list myself) and I can't find it. I figure I'm doing something (or lots of somethings) wrong, but there's part of me that feels like I'm being left out by the popular kids. I've been feeling high on my tech savvy (not easy to do in a house where my husband can basically build a computer from scratch, and knows more acronyms than actual words)....

To top things off, I just about fainted tonight when I found that someone from U Washington had published a refereed article about knitting blogs in an online rhetoric journal. I was ready to call up the Popular Culture Association and let them know that I wouldn't have a paper to read, because someone had already written and published what I was going to say. Then I had the presence of mind (ha ha) to read the paper and I saw that it wasn't at all what I was trying to do.

This entry is way more "academic" than "creative," though a main reason for starting Seis Manos in the first place was to explore how artificial the divide between those two kinds of thinking is. I've been thinking how competition goes underground in women's craft blogs---women seem afraid to openly show how competitive they probably feel---and my immersion in writing this paper (and, I hope, a journal article built on it) has made the academic machisma I'm so used to feeling bleed way, way into an area that I've tried to keep it out of. Oh well. No one's reading this anyway! (Maybe if I start making lists of people I hate and envy--and who have no connection to sewing or crafting--this blog will suddenly become very popular and influential.)

Monday, March 5, 2007

The long, long braid

Astrid went back to school today (finally), and I didn't get a call from the secretary telling me she needed to come home. This feels like a great victory (I'll take them wherever I can get them these days). As we promised her, she got to bring her long, long polarfleece braid (about 8 feet now) to school for show and tell. I'm going to pick her and her brother up from school in a few minutes. It will be very interesting to hear Astrid's account of the reception her braid got: because she's in a Spanish-language Montessori class, and because I forgot to look up the words she might need in order to describe her work, I have no idea how her teachers or classmates will interpret what she definitely sees as a *big* achievement.

I've started lacing together my braid into an oval rug, and even though I've only got about 14 x 3 inches put together, it looks lovely. I'm already thinking about new projects to braid.

Thursday, March 1, 2007


Okay, the bad cold turned into pneumonia, and I haven't felt like doing much but sleep. Elliot and Astrid, however, have been at home with ear infections, so sleeping hasn't happened as much as I have needed it to. There have been moments when I've actually gotten more peace if I was busy--I guess the kids are so used to me working on stuff that they are less likely to express neediness if I'm up and about than they are if I'm lying down. The second I lie down they have parched throats, grumbling tummies, ouches galore, and disputes that require immediate mediation.

I started braiding a rug out of cheap polarfleece last week, before I was so sick. Cutting the strips was the most fun, all things considered, mostly because I bought a 60 mm rotary cutter (I've wanted a bigger one for a long time--my little one just can't do thick piles of fabric). The braiding has been fun, too, but it's a drag to get up every few minutes to sew new strips onto the ends of the current ones. The braiding goes *really* fast. I wasn't able to find linen carpet thread in the stores (and I was too impatient to order some online--had I known that I was going to get pneumonia, gee, I would have ordered it last week), so I bought cotton crochet yarn. I was able to find the recommended kind of needle--it looks a bit like a ski. Of course, I don't at all feel like trying to put the rug together right now.

Perhaps the most gratifying part of this braiding adventure has been Astrid's big achievement: she asked me to teach her how to braid, and she learned very quickly. She needs help keeping it tight, but she definitely understands how braiding works. I told her that, once she's feeling better, she can bring her long (about seven feet) braid for show and tell.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Hats and mittens for cold, cold girls

In spite of a pretty bad cold, I spent a few happy hours this weekend working on hats and mittens for Astrid. Until last week, she had what had turned out to be her "signature" hat (if it's possible for a three-year-old to be that fashion-forward): a roll-brim cap made from cappuccino-colored Polartec fleece, with a flower crafted out of deep red Polartec and a coral colored vintage glass button. No matter how bedraggled she was at the end of her long school day, Astrid always looked fresh when she was wearing that hat. As eventually happens with all good winter hats, she lost it--and actually went for a couple of days with a huge knit beret I found at the bottom of our woolly bin.

I went through my fleece scraps on Saturday and found enough of the good stuff (real Malden Mills Polarfleece in a sunshine yellow) to make one hat--plus plenty, plenty, plenty of the junky stuff to make a spare. (I bought a ton of fabric-store fleece last week because I want to try to make a braided rug out of it....more about this as it develops.) I also found a very easy pattern for good mittens ( They turned out a bit narrow (though they still fit), but they have nice long cuffs so Astrid's wrists stay warm. I made three pairs out of the good stuff and one out of junky stuff; I trimmed all four pairs around the wrist with nylon/lycra swimsuit fabric.

We've had a lot of snow over the past week, so I feel good knowing that I won't be getting "that look" from Astrid's teachers when she arrives without the right outdoor gear. She's a skinny, fast-moving thing who gets cold fast. The new hats, in particular, will take a while to work their way into my heart the way her cappuccino cap did, but I have faith that it's the kid, and not the gear, that makes fashion history.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Bad Haiku

Not exactly a news flash, I know, but....gee....there's a lot of terrible haiku on the web. I was trying to find some poems that I could put in the block-printed cards we've been making--I want to use them as Valentine's Day cards. I did find a very few that I like a lot, but I had to wade through stuff that seemed to miss the spirit of haiku--the fleeting observation of a moment, especially one involving the natural world or the body in space.

Here's my favorite, by a writer named Jane Reichhold:

Winter weaves
a pile of pillows
on a hard chair

For me, it captures something comforting about Valentine's day, but without losing the feeling of really, really strong cold that we're dealing with here in Chicago.

I also like this one, by Philip D. Noble:

black flight of starlings
dive and soar in winter dusk
changing in shape and size

In my long drives home from the northwest suburbs to my neighborhood in Oak Park, I often watch the clouds of starlings shift from power lines on one side of a big intersection to the lines on the other side--and then back again, before they've even had a chance to rest. I don't get it, but I like to watch it.

Today I circulated flyers for the crafting group we're starting at work. I have no idea how this will go, but it feels good to try it.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Printer's Block

No pictures today....instead, an afternoon of disappointing printing. Over the past week, Elliot and I made several printing blocks out of white Sculpey. I had a feeling that Elliot's wouldn't make great prints because they were pretty bumpy, but I had high hopes for mine---I was planning to take the best of the bunch and use them on some little t-shirts for my niece, Imogen. As it turned out, neither Elliot's nor my blocks worked much at all; even though I had rolled lightly over the surface of mine before baking them, they were apparently still too uneven to make all the detail show up when I test-printed them on paper. Even worse, when we mixed the fabric paint we were going to use on the t-shirts, it was way gunkier than the Speedball block printing ink had been, and we couldn't get the brayer to load properly. Inexplicably, I decided to go ahead and print on the t-shirts, and they came out pretty bad.

After Elliot (cheerfully) gave up, Astrid joined me and asked if she could paint on the remaining t-shirt. I couldn't think of a reason to say no, so I gave her the bottles of paint, a mixing surface, and a plastic knife. She ended up mixing an almost fluorescent orange and applying it every way she could think of to the lime green shirt. She started with a chunky brush and made hearts, x-es, a ladder, and a mountain. Then she switched to rubber stamps (seashell, three different fish, a crab, Saturn....probably something else, too). Finally, she put handprints in several places. It's actually a very cool shirt. She concentrated so hard while she was working, and when she was done (right when I was ready to start cooking dinner), she was wiped out and wanted me to hold her (her usual response to exhaustion, even now that she's almost four).

When I'm working with the kids, I usually have to help at least one of them work through disappointment when his or her work doesn't come out the way the child had envisioned. Today I was the one who had to deal with that kind of disappointment. Elliot had so amiably walked away from an obviously lost cause, and Astrid was oblivious to my own dissatisfaction--her work went great.

I'm going to see if some embellishment can make the t-shirts look a little better. I also thought of trying to wash out the paint, but I'm pretty sure I've waited too long now.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Creating Community

Spring classes started last week, so I've got less writing time than I did last month. At work, we've had some meetings that turned into discussions about ways of creating community for students, faculty, and staff on our (commuter) campus. After one of these meetings, I started daydreaming about sponsoring a crafters' group; a few hours later, one of our students emailed me with the same idea. So we're going to do it---and I will finally realize my dream of making stuff on company time! (That's a joke.)

I'm tempted to surf hither and yon, looking at how other people organize their groups, but the student who shared my brainstorm subtly convinced me that we need to keep it simple. I am, though, going to indulge my need to produce a cool-looking flyer.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Block Printing

I found a book called "Instant Printmaking: Simple Techniques to Try at Home" (I think) at the library. A great book---but there's not a lot that's simple to learn or easy to do at home. I guess that if it doesn't require a giant printing press, the authors assume that people can carry out a technique at home.

I did, though, find a bunch of approaches I wanted to try, so the kids and I went to the art supply store (after they attended a work-related breakfast meeting at my office). I don't think Elliot had been at a big art supply store before, so he had that kid-in-a-candy store look....after a while, though, he told me, "You don't have to get *everything* I ask for, Mom!" I hadn't realized how Santa-ish I was being. I have a strong weakness for art supply stores.

The main things I needed to start my printmaking journey (or walk around the block, depending how it went) were brayers (rollers) and printmaking ink. I actually asked a worker at the store to help me choose paper (I feel awkward asking for help, and I often distrust the advice they give, but this guy was very helpful)---I didn't have a clue what would work but not break the bank. (On my own, I found the most expensive, double-deckle boxed paper, and I wanted it *bad*, but I needed to be sure I knew what I was doing before I sank that kind of money into a project that I might abandon after ten minutes.)

I had tried carving lino blocks and pieces of rubber about a year ago, but the results stunk, so the first discovery I made last night was that the brayer makes all the difference (last time I just stuck the block into some paint, and the images came out gloppy). I even used one of my old lino blocks this time (a small, square Arts and Crafts design), and the results were excellent.

My great success, though, was the rubber rectangle I carved for making Valentines. I was surprised at how easy it was for me to copy my sketch into the rubber, and then carve it up. Without the brayer, the prints would undoutedly have been awful; with it, they turned out great.

I'm not sure what comes next. I've got a pair of jeans cut out for me and some fleece slippers for Elliot, but I don't feel like sewing right now. Classes start on Tuesday....the week is going to be very busy so I probably need to rest in a serious way tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I keep losing the point(s)

About ten days ago, when I was in the can't-handle-unstructured-time funk that I get into whenever there's a break from work, I decided (probably on my way up the stairs--it was a five-second decision) that making a quilt would perk me up. I've had batting and backing for a child-size quilt in my stash for almost a year now--I bought it thinking that I was going to make a quilt for my niece, Imogen, back when she was a newborn, and then I heard that my brother and sister-in-law had received a ton of quilts, so I gave up on the plan before I did any work on it.

I always regret the decision to make a quilt, mostly because my interest in the project dies long before I'm even 2/3 done with the work, but also because I'm simply not that good a quilter. I hate projects that take a long time, so I've never even made a quilt the old-fashioned way--I always strip-piece them--and even so, it takes too long for me. My other big problem with quilts is that (perhaps because I strip piece) I always end up cutting the points of the squares off when I'm assembling blocks or large triangles. I was so determined not to let this happen again, but of course, it did.

Anyway: ten days have gone by, and I'm almost done with quite a nice little quilt for Astrid's bed. Yes, the quilt is largely pointless, but it's a nice melange of purples, blues, greens, and tea colors. Elliot helped me arrange the half-blocks (cut on the diagonal), and he also helped me pin the quilt top, batting, and backing together. Best of all (from his perspective), I've let him start learning how to use the sewing machine--he got to sew for two lengths of the quilt. He will also help me hand-quilt a design in the center of the quilt (which is made of the same purple I used for the backing--I found myself one block short, so I turned a square of purple into a parallelogram--it looks almost intentional, as my husband kindly put it). Elliot's involvement is great on several levels: I'm obviously delighted (and a little nervous) about his interest in learning how to use the machine, and it's great to spend the little bit of extra time with him at the sewing machine. But it also reminds me of the last time I made a quilt--yes, pointless--which was during the last six weeks of my pregnancy with Astrid.

That quilt was for Elliot: it marked a change of family status for him, as he was about to become a big brother and was preparing (very resistantly) to move from his little bedroom into a bigger room that had been his father's home office. As a way of easing the transition, he picked out the fabrics for the quilt that would go on his new "big kid bed." At five-and-a-half, he was too young to do any real work on the quilt, but he loved having me ask him how I was making the quilt. The answer: "With love in every stitch." He needed a lot of reminders about his importance in the family.

I also like thinking about that quilt, and about the events that (sadly) link it to Astrid's new quilt. I started Elliot's quilt in the weeks leading up to the US invasion of Iraq, so some of the symbols hand-quilted on that one reflected the family's hopes that there wouldn't be a war. The invasion started about two weeks after Astrid's birth--I will always remember being up with her all night and listening to Anne Garrels' NPR reports from Baghdad. Tonight, as I guided Elliot's hands on my sewing machine, I considered the address that Bush was making that minute about his decision to escalate the war (we weren't watching it), and I wondered what would be happening the next time I decide to make a quilt. (Maybe Elliot will make the next quilt in our house....)

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Unorganically yours

I spent some time on New Year's Day looking at websites that sell organic fabric--cotton, wool, hemp, even bamboo--and reading stuff written by people who prefer it, whether for environmental or health-related reasons. I had conflicted responses to what I saw. First, a lot of these textiles are beautiful; I can see myself having a happy time sewing and wearing these materials. Many of them are not as expensive as I'd imagined they'd be (with the exception of the printed cottons--eeek! they cost a bundle). And then, of course, I was troubled by what I saw as the fanaticism of some of the people writing about organics--some of them have an obsession with purity that seems to block out any recognition of how impossible it is to avoid "contamination" with the world we find ourselves living in. Some, I suspect, actually spend so much of their time and resources trying to leave the smallest environmental footprint that they miss all kinds of opportunities for involvement and action with people who can't afford to be organic fundamentalists.

(OK, end of rant. I have to remind myself that I, too, have my fundamentalist tendencies. The sight of women bottle-feeding their babies, for instance, turns me into a Talibanish dervish. "Breast milk or nothing," my attitude says. "Burn down the formula factories!" I cry, to the obvious concern of parents with all kinds of good reasons to bottle-feed.)

Anyway, looking at the organic textiles made me do a double-take on a dress I just finished for Astrid. This cotton knit, which I got on sale at, could not be less organic, I fear. But I love the print! So many colors! What girl wouldn't like to wear a whole tropical jungle? If I went organic, Astrid wouldn't get to twirl in a dress like this.

Excuses, excuses.

Controlling Art Teacher on the loose....

The four of us have been home together for almost two weeks now--for the kids' winter break from school--and Astrid is losing her mind. Actually, I'm losing my mind (I can't speak for my husband) because Astrid is (I think) so bored that her behavior is just awful right now. She's a challenge under the best circumstances, but I don't think I realized what a good job her teachers and friends do of tiring her out. Lately, even when she's exhausted, she still finds reserves of energy for mischief and mayhem.

I'm not sure why it took me so long, but last night after dinner I realized that we needed some serious, kid-focused "project time." I got out the paint-and-glue-covered purple vinyl tablecloth (left over from one of Elliot's early birthday parties)--a signal to both Elliot and Astrid that it's "project time"--as well as a fistful of glitter glue tubes, a couple of shirt box lids from Christmas, and some mosaic squares and strips I quickly created with my rotary cutter and some scraps of paper. I always have a process or product in mind when I get a project going, and, of course, it's never the process or product my children are interested in pursuing---this, obviously, is my problem, not theirs. As a way of making myself feel better about my need to control their experience, I tell myself that, if I didn't go with my own ideas about what might be fun, I'd probably never be able to create chances for them to get their hands messy and concentrate on something other than mentally torturing each other.

At first Elliot didn't want to participate, but he eventually jumped in (more about him in a moment). Astrid, on the other hand, knew just what she wanted to do: squeeze as much glitter glue as possible onto her shirt box, and then leave it there. Controlling Art Teacher (me) tried to get her to spread it around with her fingers (not possible: with the exception of bread dough, she can't stand the feeling of most squishy things) or a paint brush, or to use it as glue to make a mosaic. No: it was, and would be, a mini-mountain of glitter glue, one that would, were the heated air in our house not so dry, be moist for at least two days.

When Controlling Art Teacher saw that Elliot had produced a semi-evil looking face with the paper bits and glitter glue (reminiscent of the face on the peeing Calvin cartoons that some people still have on the back windows of their pickup trucks--not that Elliot probably had it in mind), she decided that he needed to work in a more abstract vein. In order to keep this wish from seeming like a form of negative criticism, C. A. T. gave Elliot an "art challenge": using a 6" X 6" styrofoam square (also from our Christmas trash/recycling pile), he needed to cover the whole space without attempting anything obviously representational. C. A. T. believed that Elliot would relish this challenge. Elliot's pretty smart, though, so, of course, he saw it as an imposition (which it was! Even C. A. T. knew this!). He played along for a while, and then got bored.

That's when C. A. T. made her most desperate move: she told Elliot that the "art challenge" was going to prepare him to help arrange a big pile of pieced strips that were going into a small quilt for Astrid's bed. He needed to learn how to visualize how bits of different colors look when they're placed close together. Yeah!

I have two really good kids. Sometimes I realize how lucky I am that they put up with me. I did let Elliot help me arrange the blocks for Astrid's quilt, and he did a great job--the "art challenge" notwithstanding.